Interdiction: Tightening the Noose
Published May 12, 2015
"There is every evidence that the enemy has been caused increasing difficulty by our concerted efforts in destroying his trains, trucks and other equipment."
- Gen. Earle E. Partridge, Commander, 5th Air Force, March 1951
Interdiction destroys an enemy's transportation system and materiel en route. Interdiction missions accounted for nearly half of U.S. Air Force combat missions in Korea. USAF interdiction efforts, using new technology and tactics, destroyed large amounts of enemy materiel and limited communist build-ups for large-scale offensives.
During the first year of the Korean War, USAF interdiction destroyed trains, bridges, roads and trucks in an effort to slow or halt North Korean transportation. The communists were vulnerable to this kind of attack because of their higher supply needs while attacking and retreating, and they lost large amounts of war material.
By the summer of 1951, the Korean War had changed to a static war and FEAF reexamined the roles of airpower. Interdiction seemed to hold the most promise as an offensive use of airpower. While many ground commanders throughout the war believed the Air Force should focus on providing direct air support for ground troops, USAF leaders stressed the importance of interdiction. Large-scale interdiction campaigns in 1951 and 1952 enjoyed some success, although the static enemy did not need as much supply as during previous major operations and was quick to rebuild railways and bridges.
Interdiction tactics changed constantly as the communists adjusted their movements. Enemy trains and trucks moved by night and remained hidden by day. In the last year of the war, new tactics involving the combined efforts of fighter-bombers by day and light bombers by night proved successful.
Interdiction continued in the strategic "air pressure" campaign from 1952 until the signing of the armistice in 1953. The air pressure campaign was targeted to produce costly economic damage to the communists and reduced their will to continue fighting (many communist prisoners complained of inadequate supply as the biggest cause of poor morale). Perhaps more importantly, interdiction efforts during the last two years of the war prevented the enemy from starting major offensives by limiting his ability to transport material.
Click on the following links to learn more about interdiction during the Korean War.
49th Fighter Bomber Group
B-26 Invader in Korea
Leading from the Front: Col. Joseph Davis Jr.
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